Dale Appleby

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Weekly Reflections

What are you handing on? Part 2

What are you handing on?

Moses, Joshua, David, Paul, all wanted their successors to do well. Solomon was sceptical about that:  "I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless." (Ecc 2.18)

 Nevertheless when old Joshua farewelled the leaders of Israel, he told them what to do (Josh 23.6ff). David did the same for Solomon: told him what to do (1 Kings 2.2ff). So did the apostle Paul when he farewelled the elders of the Ephesian church for the last time (Acts 20.17-38). Each of them told their successors what to do. They didn't tell them how to do do it, just what to do.

Of course it wasn't the only time they told people what to do. But when the time came to make sure the succession was secure they made it very clear.

And all of them said more or less the same thing: do what God said to do. In every case there were dangers and threats ahead. Courage was needed in the next generation, as it had been been before. Courage to do what God had commanded and not turn from it to the right or to the left. Not to be sidetracked.

The handing on to the next generation is always a gradual thing. And therefore a continuous process. Two dangers beset traditional churches. One is that there is nothing to hand on. The other is that what is handed on is how to do it, not what to do.

Passing on how to do it is a means of preserving the way one generation liked do to do things. But this always changes - and needs to change, since the culture keeps on changing.

But passing on what to do helps each generation to stay in line with what God has said. What to do means doing what God said. For us Christians the simple list includes: love the Lord with all our heart; love one another as Christ has loved us; make people from all nations disciples of the Lord Jesus; build up the body of Christ.

Those are the kinds of things we want to make sure are passed down and strengthened from generation to generation. They are things about which we can all say the same thing (1 Cor 1.10).
How those things are to be done will keep changing and are secondary. Except that if we are serious about holding on to the what to do, we will be continually working out best ways to do the secondary things. Because we really want to do what God wants as well as we can.

The hope for the church in Perth lies in the experienced people handing on, while they are still alive, - to those who are younger - the commission to do what God had called them to do. To build his church.To make disciples. To feed and protect his flock.

Unfortunately many churches lack crucial experience: experience of what God has said and done. A remarkably  poor knowledge of the scriptures. God has spoken through prophets and in these latter days through his Son we are told (Heb 1.1). Yet large numbers of Anglicans  have almost no idea of what God has said through those prophets - or indeed through his Son.

So there is not much good to be handed on. Instead a great deal of confusion and how to do.

By God's grace not all churches are like this. Some are in a state of renewal. In some there is a new hunger to hear what God has said and to put it into practice. But the days are dark and the need is urgent.  

Those of us who have been Christians for some time must not slack off. In some cases we need to catch up to where we ought to be. In every case we need to keep encouraging one another - and those who are newer to the faith - to do what God has said.
Dale

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